Protest Inspires Unity and Change
By John Meng Publisher/Editor Approximately 60 people of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds gathered together on the lawn of the Jackson County Courthouse in Edna last week to voice their protest of the murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black Minneapolis, Minn., resident who was reportedly murdered by a white police officer. The incident captured national attention and sparked protests across the country.
In the aftermath of Floyd’s death, some of the ‘protests’ have turned violent, resulting in riots and looting that have caused more than $55 million in property damage in Minnesota alone, plus 11 deaths of innocent people nationwide.
Fortunately, the protest in Edna was peaceful and presented more of a display of unity among people.
Stephanie Espinosa of Edna, who is a licensed master social worker for the State of Texas, quickly organized the event after another originally planned protest was cancelled at the last minute. Espinosa explained that the original protest was well-intentioned but it called for everyone to be silent, and she disagreed with that approach.
“I didn’t agree with that. I feel that we as a society and people of color have been silenced enough,” said Espinosa.
“I decided that we still should get together (after the cancellation), but not silently.”
Espinosa was further encouraged to hold the event after reading a message posted on social media by Edna Police Chief Wooldridge which voiced support for the protest.
“I totally support this protest,” wrote Wooldridge. “This is your community. These are your friends and neighbors. I believe that if there are more people at the protest for the right reasons, like awareness and change, and fewer people there for the wrong reasons, like criminal mischief and theft, then surely the protest will be peaceful and accomplish it’s organizer’s stated goals. Let’s come together as a community, celebrate our common grounds, and build bridges over the chasms that separate us.”
According to Espinosa, she had three goals for the protest. She wanted to start the event by saying ‘thank you’; she wanted to have a prayer; and she wanted everyone to sing ‘Amazing Grace’ in honor of Floyd. After that, some attendees chanted, held up signs, sang songs and some sat quietly in their support.
Towards the end of the protest, the protesters all took a knee for eight minutes 46 seconds in honor of Floyd.
On May 25, 2020, Floyd died Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds while he was handcuffed face down in the street. Two other officers further restrained Floyd and a fourth officer prevented onlookers from intervening. During the final three minutes Floyd reportedly was motionless and had no pulse. Two autopsies determined that Floyd’s death was a homicide. All four officers were fired the day after the incident, and criminal charges were brought against them. Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The other three have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. The FBI and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension are both investigating the incident.
“I believe some people in the community just don’t understand the Black Lives Matter movement,” Espinosa said. “We’re saying that all lives matter, but institutional and systemic racism have made it harder without people even noticing. You might not be intentionally racist but it’s so engrained into the system that it comes out.
“I think it was good for the community to see that we were peaceful and that we came together with all the colors of the rainbow there. If we pause and try to understand each other without getting upset, I think things will change.”
City and county officials were pleased the protest was held peacefully and without incident.
“I am a strong supporter of freedom of speech for all as I believe some of our country’s greatest growth was a result of someone being willing to stand up and speak out for what they thought was right,” said Jackson County Judge Jill Sklar. “I am also proud of what took place on our courthouse lawn Thursday evening. It was a gathering of love and hope for all mankind. Rather than images of violence and hate, I saw people of all races and backgrounds kneeling in prayer and asking for unity and healing of this country.”
Chief Wooldridge added, “I was pleased with the protest. Sheriff Louderback and I mingled with the crowd, not in the role of crowd control but as community leaders showing support for the protesters. Everyone was cordial and the conversations were focused on the reason for the protest, which was equal treatment for Black Americans. At times like this I am grateful to be part of small town America where we can come together peacefully.”
“Overall, I believe the protest was a huge success,” added Espinosa. “The beauty and spirit that was there was very nice. I probably cried a few times."